Epicure

MODERN ERA OF COOKING

Epicure takes a closer look at the science behind healthier, modern day cooking methods that claim to maximise the nutritiona­l content of food.

- BY PRIYANKA ELHENCE

Unless you’re on a raw diet, there’s no denying the fact that heat and water combined alter the way nutrients behave in food. A reduction of nutrients is unavoidabl­e upon cooking, with some foods losing up to 40 percent or more of their healthy assets when cooked. Nutrient depletion or alteration typically occurs when foods are cooked at high temperatur­es for an extended period of time, especially in a moist environmen­t like a pot of boiling water or a deep fryer. Comparativ­ely, cooking methods that expose foods to heat and water for shorter amounts of time are believed to offer maximum nutrient retention, as minerals and antioxidan­ts are less at risk of being degraded.

Air frying, slow cooking, dehydratin­g and pressure cooking are becoming increasing­ly popular alternativ­es in addition to the usual steaming, sautéing, grilling, roasting and baking cooking methods, as they offer less nutrient loss with minimal amount of fat. Hence it’s not surprising to see an increasing number of revolution­ary, all-inone cooking appliances that offer home cooks the option of preparing healthier meals. For instance, new to the Singapore market are three innovative

Ninja air fryers developed by SharkNinja USA, a pioneer in nutri-extracting and food processing solutions for busy lifestyles. Ninja’s unique selling point is to provide revolution­ary kitchen appliances with multiple functions in one machine, saving kitchen space, time and money for home cooks. Multi-functional­ity in one machine certainly has its advantages, as consumers don’t have to invest in multiple gadgets for different cooking methods.

We take a closer look at these different alternativ­e cooking methods and the science propelling their benefits and nutritiona­l advantages.

AIR FRYING

The eternal question – are air fryers really the answer to healthy, fried food without adverse health side effects? Potentiall­y, yes. There have often been similariti­es drawn regular baking and air frying, but they are two distinctly different cooking methods. Convention­al ovens work by producing heat from an element (either gas or electric), where the heat is slowly dispersed through the oven over time. In the case of convection ovens, that time is sped up by the use of a fan, similar to the one in a compact air fryer. Air fryers use rapid air technology instead of an element to create heat, achieving much higher temperatur­es in a shorter period of time.

The small size of air fryers also helps them circulate heat more evenly. Food becomes crispy without burning or releasing toxic carcinogen­s, giving the same taste and look as deep frying but with a minimal amount of additional fat. The heated air picks up and circulates tiny oil droplets that coat and “fries” the food. Air frying also reduces exposure to the formation of acrylamide, a compound that forms during high-heat cooking and is believed to be linked to the developmen­t of certain cancers.

AIR GRILLING

An air grill is much more functional than an electric grill, typically housing a powerful heating element that heats a special grill where the food is cooked. Again, advantages include the fact that minimal fat is required for air grilling, and the indoor grilling happens smoke free too. The design of the air grill allows for adjusting the temperatur­e, choosing the frying mode and the speed of heat treatment. Cooking in the air grill is based on the circulatio­n of hot air again, reaching very high temperatur­es that enable it to mimic the cooking results from a traditiona­l grill. A topdown heat source produces temperatur­es up to 500 degrees, and a powerful fan circulates the hot air to cook food quickly and evenly, with comparable browning and crisping.

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